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10 February

In the headlines

The UK economy narrowly dodged a recession in 2022, despite growth flatlining in the final three months. GDP fell by 0.5% in December, thanks to factors including rail and postal strikes, and England’s early exit from the World Cup. Ukraine is prepared to use British long-range missiles to hit Crimea, in what would be a “major escalation” of Western involvement in the war, says The Times. Kyiv officials have requested UK-made Harpoon and Storm Shadow weapons to destroy Russian air bases on the peninsula, which was annexed by Putin’s forces in 2014. Chinese police have trained a squad of six sniffer squirrels to help bust drug deals. Officials in Chongqing say the nimble rodents are “cheaper and more agile” than sniffer dogs, because they can wriggle into tight spaces and clamber up walls in “complex environments” like warehouses.


New York art collective MSCHF is back with another outlandish accessory, says Design Boom: the Big Red Boot. Made from a thick rubbery plastic, the comically oversized shoes are designed to fuse “high fashion with the cartoon world”. It’s like “sexy Ronald McDonald”, comments one impressed Instagram user. You can try and nab a pair when they go on sale next Thursday here.


You wouldn’t know it from all the Cold War 2.0 rhetoric, says Politico, but the US and China are trading more than ever – a record $690bn last year. Some of the increase is the result of inflation. But given the years of US tariffs on Chinese imports and the more recent export ban on American tech, that’s still an “eye-opening” figure. It shows just how intertwined the world’s two largest economies are, despite their efforts to “decouple”.

The great escape

A New Yorker pining for sandy beaches got a nasty shock when he realised, mid-flight, that he had booked a trip to Sidney, Montana rather than Sydney, Australia. “I saw a mountaintop covered in white snow,” Kingsley Burnett told a local TV channel. “At that point, I knew I was in trouble.” The 62-year-old had wanted to be frugal for his trip, so had been pleasantly surprised that the ticket was so cheap. Still, he’s not alone. The owner of the inn Burnett stayed at while waiting for a return flight said it was the second time someone had checked in after making that mistake.


We’re in a golden age of “once-in-a-lifetime art exhibitions”, says Bloomberg. A new Johannes Vermeer exhibition brings together 28 of the 37 fragile, “jealously guarded” paintings the Dutch artist is known to have produced. A 2019 Louvre show included 11 of the less than 20 known Leonardo da Vinci pieces. Last year, the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence persuaded 60 different institutions to lend it 130 works by the Italian sculptor Donatello, including one that hadn’t left a Siena church in 600 years. Modern audiences are too discerning to settle for minor displays, which has forced big institutions to collaborate more.


A new book, Brag Better by the American Meredith Fineman, advises Britons to “blow their own trumpets more”, says Emma Duncan in The Times. This brings to mind a story of an artist friend who was asked by some Americans how his recent exhibition had gone. “Fairly well,” he told them. Later, when dining with some British friends, he gave the same answer. He heard afterwards that the Americans thought he meant the exhibition was an abject failure, while the Brits worried he was getting too big for his boots.


It’s a bank of polar stratospheric clouds, better known as “rainbow clouds”, captured by Icelandic photographer Jónína Guðrún Óskarsdóttir. The phenomenon occurs when the lower stratosphere hits a chilly –81C, says My Modern Met. This turns water molecules into small ice crystals, which scatter the sun’s rays to produce striations of colours across the sky.


quoted 10.2.23

“One should try everything once, except incest and folk dancing.”

English composer Arnold Bax